Opinion: Penguins finally start to mesh, prepare for Stanley Cup

March is usually an exciting time during the National Hockey League’s season,  when the playoff picture becomes clearer.nhl-color

Specifically, the Metropolitan Division’s month has been an exciting one, and the Pittsburgh Penguins made the most out of its opportunity to make a playoff push.

Many were skeptical at the beginning of the season when the Penguins had a lackluster start under former head coach Mike Johnston.

Johnston would then lose his coaching job, and in my opinion, that was the best option for the Penguins to turn its season around before it was too late.

The organization then named Mike Sullivan the head coach, and everything began to click for the Penguins.

Sullivan is also making a case for himself to be named the Jack Adams award recipient for the NHL’s top coach

Great moves were made by the Penguins before the trade deadline.

This included them acquiring Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz.

These three players have contributed much to the team in the month of March.

With Evgeni Malkin out, Hagelin stepped up on the team’s second line, along with winger Phil Kessel and  center Nick Bonino.

Daley boasts a plus/minus of nine, well above the league average.

Also, Shultz, with his hard and accurate slap shots towards the net, gives the Penguins ample opportunities to score off of redirects or rebounds.

However, the biggest factor the Pittsburgh Penguins success in this month is the play of the captain Sidney Crosby.

Crosby has stepped up in the absence of the other half of the “Two-Headed Monster”, Malkin, who went down with an undisclosed injury.

Crosby’s play this month was so over the top that he was named one of the NHL’s three stars of the month.

Crosby helped the team in winning 12 of its last 13 games.

He leads the team in goals, assists and points, and is also in the top 10 of all three categories in the entire league.

As captain , he  led the team to its 10th straight playoff berth, and is now looking to clinch the home ice advantage in the playoffs.

The team is also coming together going into the playoffs, despite being plagued by injuries.

One of the most recent injuries being starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury went down with a concussion, believed to be from when his helmet was knocked loose from a shot during a game against the Nashville Predators in late March.

His replacement, rookie Matt Murray, who is believed to be the future Penguins goaltender, has filled that role nicely earning a shutout and a spot as one of the NHL’s three stars of the week. 

Murray has helped pick up three straight wins for the Penguins, with a notable shutout over the tough New York Rangers.

The Penguins are currently at the top of the list for ESPN’s power rankings.

With everything currently going right for the Penguins, and the clinching of a playoff spot, the Penguins proved themselves as a contender for the 2016 Stanley Cup.

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